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Self-regulatory driving practices by older adults

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posted on 19.02.2019, 22:07 by Molnar, Lisa Jeanne
Self-regulation of driving shows promise as a strategy by which older drivers can compensate for declines in driving-related abilities and extend the time period over which they can safely drive. Self-regulation is generally described as the process of modifying one’s driving by driving less or intentionally avoiding specific driving situations considered to be challenging. Research undertaken in this thesis was intended to generate new knowledge about the process of self-regulation by older drivers at multiple levels of driver performance and decision making. Of special interest was how various individual, social, and environmental factors influence this process. Both self-report and objectively derived data on health, functioning, and driving from a sample of older drivers in the greater Melbourne area of Victoria, Australia were collected and analyzed to explore the nature and extent of self-regulation, the influence of selected factors on self-regulation, and the correspondence between self-reports of self-regulatory practices and objective driving patterns and behaviors. Three levels of driver behavior and decision making were included in the framework for examining self-regulation: tactical; strategic; and life-goal. Tactical self-regulation has to do with actual maneuvers made in traffic in response to conditions in the driving environment (e.g., reducing distractions while driving such as chatting with passengers, leaving more distance between one’s car and the car ahead). Strategic self-regulation has to do largely with pre-trip decisions about the circumstances under which to drive or not to drive (e.g., avoiding night driving or other situations considered challenging, reducing driving overall). Life-goal self-regulation has to do with drivers’ broader decisions in life that affect driving such as where to live in relation to the destinations one frequents or what kind of car to drive, with safety often being an important consideration in the vehicle purchase decision. Findings from the research provide valuable insights into the self-regulatory process among older adults. First, not all reported avoidance of driving or other driving modifications can be construed as self-regulation. Drivers report many reasons for modifying their driving, only some of which relate to what is commonly considered self-regulation. Reasons for reported driving avoidance or other practices were often more closely related to lifestyle or preferences than to self-regulation. Thus, to better understand self-regulation among older adults, it is important to understand the reasons that people have for avoiding driving situations or engaging in other practices. Second, self-regulation is clearly a multi-dimensional concept, and one that is tied to specific driving situations, as well as level of decision making. The research also indicated that reported strategic and tactical self-regulation are influenced by different sets of individual, social, and environmental factors. Strategic self-regulation was related to participants’ gender, self-perceived abilities and functioning, feelings of comfort and safety, whether they had family or friends available to drive them, and two clinical measures of functioning (the Rapid Pace Walk and the MVPT-3). Factors found to be associated with tactical self-regulation were age, self-perceived abilities, and contrast sensitivity (as measured by the Pelli-Robson contrast sensitivity test). Third, despite the relative infrequency of reported life-goal self-regulation, this level warrants further research because of the opportunity that life-goal decisions afford for enhancing older adult safety and mobility. For example, although the trend of aging in place is firmly entrenched among many older adults, there may be opportunities to create more livable communities with more accessible housing options to foster continued mobility. Similarly, efforts to make vehicles safer and more accessible for older adults, as well as to better educate older consumers about the safety features in vehicles, are increasingly being recognized as an important part of a multi-faceted approach to keeping older adults safely mobile. Fourth, the exploratory comparisons between objective measures of driving and drivers’ self-reports suggested that there was correspondence, although modest, between some objective driving measures and their comparable self-reported measures, but a lack of correspondence for others. There may be a role for self-reports in providing a context for understanding and helping interpret naturalistic driving data with regard to some self-regulatory driving practices. However, the discrepancies found between self-reported and objective measures of more general driving exposure raise concerns because of the critical role that accurate measures play in understanding crash risk. Continuing efforts to better understand the self-regulatory practices of older drivers at the tactical, strategic, and life-goal levels should provide additional insights into how the transition from driving to non-driving can be better managed to balance the interdependent needs of public safety and personal mobility.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Judith L. Charlton

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Monash Injury Research Institute.


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Monash University Accident Research Centre